Frankly, I am tired of this pandemic. I am tired of the death. I am tired of the destruction of families and the obliteration of vulnerable individuals’ social supports. I am tired of human issues being politicized and used as weapons to divide us further. I am tired of people being politically correct at the expense of what is better for society.
So, let me be bold, and say something almost scandalous. Unless we get back to the basics, finding an “end” to this pandemic will continue to elude us.
We have known about this virus for over two years, and quite frankly, Coronavirus has done what it is supposed to do–survive via mutation. I believe I learned the basics of virology in undergrad and, indeed, in first-year medical school. I prefer not to remember the fine details of the grueling medical school journey.
Next, let’s look at the risk factors, excluding vaccination status, for poorer outcomes for COVID 19. Directly from the CDC, “Older adults are more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19. More than 81 percent of COVID-19 deaths occur in people over age 65. The number of deaths among people over age 65 is 80 times higher than the number of deaths among people aged 18-29.” So, they are saying what we already know. The chances of dying from illnesses increase with age, and I don’t see much point in elaborating this obvious fact.
Secondly, the CDC says, “The risk of severe COVID-19 increases as the number of underlying medical conditions increases in a person”. Wow, this is groundbreaking! Chronic illnesses increase the risk of death. But, seriously, this is something we have known LONG before this pandemic. I am pretty sure prehistoric people knew this.
Thirdly, the CDC says, “Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put various groups of people at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19, including many people from certain racial and ethnic minority groups and people with disabilities.” So, the social determinants of health play a role in who dies and survives this illness. As much as I love this topic, this will not be the focus of this article, but I will gladly talk about this in the future.
Let us look at chronic illness. The majority of chronic diseases are preventable. They are directly related to our poor lifestyle choices and living in an obesogenic society. America is getting fatter and fatter every year, despite spending records on diet and exercise programs.
Imagine if leaders had strongly encouraged or daresay mandated that society live a healthier lifestyle; where would we be now? For example, workplaces were mandated to incorporate exercise, meditation, and regular therapy sessions into their employees’ responsibilities. What if we banned the sales of tobacco products and other social vices contributing to the burden of chronic disease?
I conducted a scientific study during the past two years. It passed ethics approval with flying colors. There was one participant, and it was me. I was a stressed, overworked, and disgruntled health care worker who was trying to manage to raise a newborn and a toddler at the start of the pandemic. I was exhausted, overweight (dare I use the word, obese) and frankly burnt out. I made the drastic choice to slow my roll and make dramatic lifestyle choices over time. I made regular exercise mandatory, ate a balanced diet, and incorporated wellness practices into myself. I improved my relationships, and the relationships that were not healthy, I ended them. The results were outstanding! I reported statistically significant health outcomes. I lost weight; I was happier, and I was stronger than I had been in my entire adult life. The number needed to treat was a whopping 1! Imagine a drug or treatment, that for every person who participated in the healthier lifestyle plan, we could prevent at least one bad outcome.
Let me make this clear-I am pro-vaccine. Or in the current situation, I am pro scientists trying to figure out a more effective vaccination over time. However, we are wasting our time without common sense and going back to the basics! Imagine, if globally, we had dealt with the three most significant risk factors for severe COVID outcomes. Imagine if we had health with health inequalities. Imagine if we prevented and reduced the disease burden of chronic disease. Imagine if we as a society believed that we could age gracefully, with a fraction of the number of chronic diseases we have today.
Call me old school. I believe that food is medicine, and exercise can be a prescription. So prevention is better than a cure.
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